This month’s Hue of the Month is Interior Designer and Blogger, Erika Ward. She is a married mother of 3 kids who thinks of herself as the quintessential Renaissance woman. Erika has an insatiable passion for all things design (and Mexican cuisine). Her designs are inspired by the latest trends in fashion and she urges clients to look at their wardrobe for inspiration in styling their homes. Her blog, BluLabel Bungalow, is filled with sophisticated fashion inspired tips and do-it-yourself design projects and ideas.
Current City: Atlanta, Georgia
School Name/Degree: University of Georgia / BBA Finance
Design Specialty: Affordable Design / Fashion-Inspired Interior Design
Tell me a little bit about your design background. How did you get started in the industry?
My design background was cultivated as a young child surrounded by artists and entrepreneurs. An accomplished architect, my grandfather was probably my first design professor. It was my greatest desire to follow in his footsteps, but was advised to study Finance with plans to manage the finances of the family business. After receiving my bachelor’s degree, I still longed for formal design training. I then enrolled and completed coursework in Interior Design at American InterContinental University. During this time, I also worked for a large Design/Build firm then for a full service real estate development company managing multi-million dollar construction budgets. Finally in 2005, I established Erika Ward Interiors and set out to answer my heart’s true calling.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in interior design?
Simply put, I gain joy from creating an atmosphere. Fabrics, textures, colors, lighting, and materials have a way of affecting our moods without our awareness or permission. The psychology of interior design is intriguing because it engages all of our five senses, yes even our sense of taste. Studies show that vivid colors such as red and yellow stimulate the appetite, while blue or green plates suppress the appetite. Who knew changing your tableware could help you drop a few pounds!
Describe your first interior design project.
My first interior design project was a small space design in Midtown Atlanta. Without a doubt, I put both my formal and informal training to the test and fortunately passed with flying colors. The space belonged to a young, professional woman who had a very limited budget, but very big ideas! Think champagne taste…you know the rest. Eager and downright giddy about my first design job, I self performed the painting (in exchange for dinner) and even put a few hidden carpentry skills to use. The result was beyond what either of us expected, but I had to pretend like I knew all along how great it was going to be. I still laugh about that to this day!
How do you define your personal style?
My personal style is sophisticated, tailored, and comfortable. I tend to be very conservative in both my home and in how I dress, but occasionally I get a wild hair and surprise everyone. I favor upholstered furniture with straight lines and adore curved legs on case goods. Similarly, I love clothes tailored to fit my body’s proportions which result in a wardrobe that compliments my curves.
What inspires you?
In design, the homeowner’s lifestyle and personal beliefs are my inspiration. In my personal life, my favorite sources of inspiration come from the success stories of others. I make it my goal to find inspiration everywhere. If we look to a particular avenue to be inspired and for some reason it ceases to exist what happens to our creativity?
What is your dream interior design project? If you had the money, resources and a ready and willing client what would you create and why?
My dream project is actually more of a movement. I wish I could afford to design spaces for everyone at no cost to them. I want to spread the word that it’s really not about having expensive things; it’s about being surrounding by the things you love. I recently read an article written by Jonathan Legate (http://jonathanlegate.tumblr.com/post/875094905/living-with-what-you-love)
that explains it beautifully.
Who is your favorite interior designer? What are some of your favorite design vendors, stores, books/magazines, and websites?
Favorite Interior Designer: Amanda Nisbet
Stores: Horizon Home, Bungalow Classic, and bit of Ikea
Vendors: Brownstone Furniture, Magenta, and BlissLivingHome
Magazines: Canadian House and Home, HouseBeautiful
Websites: http://www.colourmehappy.blogspot.com , http://www.eddieross.com, http://www.decordemon.com, http://www.allthebestblog.com
What do you find most rewarding about your job as an interior designer? What do you find least rewarding?
Being a designer stretches my creativity in regards to finding alternative uses for common items (i.e. using a dresser in an entryway). It also challenges me to see how far I can stretch a dollar (a great skill to have today). The least rewarding thing about being a designer is when I encounter an unreliable contractor. Problems with tradesman are a real drain of time and energy. I detest unprofessionalism and believe that sometimes you have to have enough business acumen for everyone to recover when a job goes wrong.
As an African-American interior designer, do you feel that African-Americans are under-represented in the design industry? What do you think should be done to encourage more African-Americans to become interior designers?
Yes. I think the disparity comes from youth not having much exposure to the field. Due to tight state budgets, art programs in our school systems have been either drastically cut or eliminated. Once of my favorite vocational education classes was industrial arts. My high school also offered drafting for a short time, but was eliminated before I had a chance to sign up. It may be time for the design community to rally together to volunteer their time and money to offer relevant art programs to our youth.
What advice do you have for other African-American interior designers reading this interview?
My advice would be the same to all artists. Get out there are interact with ALL artists, not just a particular group of people. We are all united by a common thread, our God given artistic talents. EVERYONE has a place in the design community. Success is not reserved for a chosen few. Believe that.
“I believe that God made us all creators and I enjoy helping others to value the work of their hands“.
What is something you would like the world to know about you or your ideas?
I want to inspire someone to discover their passion and discover ways to win while doing a job they love. I also want to encourage others in self discovery. Just the other day I realized that I am further from the norm than I originally thought…and I’m okay with that.
Where do you see yourself as a designer 10 years from now?
In 10 years, I will be enjoying a successful career in television, a reputation as a phenomenal motivational speaker, and be the founder of a design related non-profit organization.